UK PM Announces New Coalition to Develop Next Generation Combat Aircraft

Render of proposed new fighter aircraft by international coalition.
Image Credit: RAF

LONDON – UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has announced that the United Kingdom will work with Italy and Japan to form an international aerospace coalition to respond to future security threats.

The Global Combat Air Programme (GCAP) will become a new partnership and ambitious endeavour between the UK, Japan and Italy to deliver the next generation of combat air fighter jets.

Prime Minister Sunak visited RAF Coningsby base on Friday to launch the first major phase of the programme.

The first step aims to harness the combined expertise and strength of the countries’ defence technology industries to push the boundaries of what has been achieved in aerospace engineering to date.     

Due to take to the skies by 2035, the ambition is for this to be a next-generation jet enhanced by a network of capabilities such as un-crewed aircraft, advanced sensors, cutting-edge weapons and innovative data systems.

It is anticipated that more like minded countries may buy into Global Combat Air Programme in due course or collaborate on wider capabilities – boosting UK exports. The combat aircraft developed through Global Combat Air Programme is also expected to be compatible with other NATO partners’ fighter jets.   

“The security of the United Kingdom, both today and for future generations, will always be of paramount importance to this Government,” stated PM Rishi Sunak.

That’s why we need to stay at the cutting-edge of advancements in defence technology – outpacing and out-manoeuvring those who seek to do us harm.”

“The international partnership we have announced today with Italy and Japan aims to do just that, underlining that the security of the Euro-Atlantic and Indo-Pacific regions are indivisible.”

“The next-generation of combat aircraft we design will protect us and our allies around the world by harnessing the strength of our world-beating defence industry – creating jobs while saving lives,” he concluded.

Replacing the Typhoon

During his visit to RAF Coningsby on Friday, the Prime Minister viewed the Typhoon aircraft which have been at the heart of the UK’s air policing for two decades.

The new combat aircraft designed by Global Combat Air Programme is expected to replace the Typhoon when it comes out of service. The Prime Minister will also meet Quick Reaction Alert Station engineers and pilots, who protect the UK’s skies 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

The UK, Italy and Japan will now work intensively to establish the core platform concept and set up the structures needed to deliver this massive defence project, ready to launch the development phase in 2024.

Ahead of the development phase, partners will also agree the cost-sharing arrangements based on a joint assessment of costs and national budgets.  

Alongside the development of the core future combat aircraft with Italy and Japan, the UK will assess our needs on any additional capabilities, for example weapons and Uncrewed Air Vehicles.  

A report by PricewaterhouseCoopers last year, suggested the UK taking a core role in a combat air system could support an average of 21,000 jobs a year and contribute an estimated £26.2bn to the economy by 2050.

Global Combat Air Programme sits alongside our other defence cooperation with international allies, including the AUKUS partnership and NATO – to which the UK remains the leading European contributor.   

The UK aerospace defence industry is already leading the world in advanced aerospace engineering. At BAE Systems’ new ‘factory of the future’ in Lancashire, for example, the company is pioneering the use of advanced 3D printing and autonomous robotics in military aircraft.

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